Dear Friends

  • Bob Stewart photo/BLM
  • Nicholas DeVore in Paonia

    Cindy Wehling photo

It's sprung

Apricot, peach and apple trees are blooming - perhaps unwisely - in western Colorado. Recently, we received a welcome to spring from Greg Hobbs, a reader of High Country News and a Colorado Supreme Court Justice. He calls his poem "Right Equipment," and it punctuates the longed-for change in season:

      The urban West is gaining on the rural,
      Eighty percent of us can't see Orion.
      "Unless we go camping," said my tent.
      "Glad you broke me in," said my hiking boots.
      "Thirty-eight percent of Colorado is public land," said my backpack.
      Thank God for right equipment.

On to Albuquerque

Readers of High Country News in the Albuquerque, N.M., area are invited to an HCN potluck Saturday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m. at the Albuquerque Museum, 2000 Mountain Road NW, in Albuquerque. Board members from around the West will be on hand as well as several staff members traveling from Paonia, Colo. We'll provide drinkables and promise no speeches; just bring a covered dish to share and RSVP to Betsy O. at 970/527-4898. Thanks.

Vegas knows no limits

HCN editor Betsy Marston just returned from Las Vegas, where she took part in an annual conference of communications staffers for the Bureau of Land Management. The agency is on a recreational-management roll, pumped up by fast and vast increases in acreage through the Clinton administration's creation of new monuments. Meeting at the aptly named Imperial Palace, the agency nowadays refers to itself as "BLM: The Open Space Agency."

Perhaps the most electrifying speaker was a Las Vegas public-relations representative, Richard Lee. Armed with a video, slides and innumerable statistics, Lee sang of a city that knows no bounds. Its difficulties do not include lack of water "- "If you build it, it will come' - though a major problem, he said, is that the city is chronically "undergolfed." At times, Lee's vision of a sprawling Las Vegas gobbling up "barren desert land' - some of that traded public land - seemed as baldly stated as that Gopher Prairie promoter in Sinclair Lewis' classic novel, Main Street: Bigger, better, faster!

Later, BLMers, some of them urbanites, got to enjoy some wonderfully barren desert by visiting Red Rock Canyon, a spectacular national conservation area just a few minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. It's become a mecca for climbers from all over the world, attracting over 1 million people a year. On April 5, that included some intrepid BLM staffers who pound concrete every day but who rarely rope up to climb sandstone.

Good eggs and bad eggs

It is hard being a do-gooder. We learn that every day as we attempt to save the world from itself. But even those who work to save the world in small, nonconfrontational ways get in trouble. Take Connie Black, who with her husband runs Lasting Impressions, a trophy and gift business down the street from High Country News. Connie helps run the Easter Egg hunt in the town park, and when we saw her a few days ago, she was gearing up to start stuffing candy into plastic "eggs."

Why plastic? Because, she said, the county Health Department had banned the use of real eggs a few years ago as a health hazard. So they had switched to plastic eggs stuffed with jelly beans. What could have been more American, or at least more Reaganesque? But then some parents complained that the jelly beans weren't individually wrapped, and might carry a disease, so now the plastic eggs are stuffed with candy wrapped in plastic or foil.

We have no doubt that this is driven by the American Federation of Plastics and Gift Wrappers, and that its members won't rest until we're all walking around encased in Saran Wrap.

The bizarre in Bisbee

Photographer Nicholas DeVore III came through in early April with news from this nation's undeclared war. He lives in Bisbee, Ariz., where he and his fellow residents get to see and participate in a daily mix of the bizarre, the insane and the amusing.

The bizarre includes the federal Border Patrol agent who shot a prize bull in the dark of night, apparently thinking it was an illegal immigrant. (Why he was shooting at all is not clear.) The owner had to destroy the animal the next day.

A woman at the Bisbee Post Office told DeVore that so far two women had given birth on her land, which lies between Mexico and El Norte, and that at times groups of 200 come through her property.

The migration takes place even though the Border Patrol is in Bisbee in force. DeVore said there are so many agents that rents have skyrocketed. Add in the Drug Enforcement Administration agents and, DeVore says, "It's like living in a prison town."

The Border Patrol does more than raise rents. In a letter to the Bisbee Observer, Ray Anderson said that he would not spend his golden years in Bisbee because the BP's patrols leave the area under a cloud of dust, and he fears contracting Valley Fever.

Nothing new here. A "10 years ago" article in the Observer said that Bisbee travel agent Alexis Claire had been arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with a government operation. She was attempting to protect a Salvadoran client-tourist from the Border Patrol.

In addition to lots of federales, the town also has people with a sense of humor. It just held its first and last Sewage Festival, attracting decorated toilets, people in costumes dominated by toilet paper and plungers, and a box full of coins for the taking. The sign on the box read: "Pennies from heaven? Well, not exactly." But they had been sanitized.

One of the big problems in Bisbee, according to the Observer, is "renegade sewage." Even though Bisbee is geographically north of its sister town of Naco, Sonora, it is gravitationally downhill, and it turns out that the Border Patrol does not accept as part of its mandate the stopping of sewage intent on flowing through the border toward Bisbee.

In addition to having been a photographer for National Geographic for 18 years, DeVore is an artist. Drawing on his study of the Way of Tea and Ikebana (flower arranging) when he was in Kyoto, Japan, he recently entered an exhibit in a benefit art contest for the local animal shelter. His work consisted of a dead puppy (the non-survivor in his dog's latest litter) on a plate, on ice, set up "like a Korean businessman's lunch, complete with chopsticks and cups of saki."

It won the $75 first prize. The Bisbee Police Department, the health department and whoever vandalized his creation, replacing the saki cups with a mound of dirt and a small cross, were not amused.

DeVore's résumé says he is in "excellent health and socially presentable."

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